Sustaining Quality Improvement Gains: Start with Your Culture

December 29, 2014
Tina Rein

Happy CoupleImproving and sustaining quality is more than improving processes. It begins with and is strengthened by transforming the organizational culture.  As a co-panelist for The Eden Alternative’s current webinar series, Person-Directed Performance Improvement, I’ve shared how Denali Center has grown from an ordinary home to an extraordinary home.  A main ingredient to our success has been growing care partners – both employees and Elders – who have a voice in developing quality, which ultimately improves quality of life.  This empowers Elders to contribute to quality improvement efforts.  I’d like to share two examples of how empowered care partner teams sustain our gains.

A group of Elders at Denali Center recently started a Recognition Task Team to celebrate and thank specific staff for the work that they do.  One elder shared with a staff member who was having a rough day that she needs to receive, as well as give, and find balance.  The next day the staff member received a card from another Elder saying “It takes a lot of work to do what you do.  You are doing a great job and we love you for it.  Thank you so much for your efforts.”  The Recognition Task Team continues to perform random acts of kindness for staff, and these simple acts strengthen relationships and staff engagement, which ultimately sustains culture change.

The second example involves an Elder in our short-stay neighborhood, who was distressed, anxious, and agitated.  Employee care partners were concerned about this individual’s safety.  A neighbor brought the resident’s dog in for a visit, and our staff recognized the calming effect Jesse, his sled dog, had on him.  They asked the neighbor if Jesse could stay with him for the day, and she did.  We have pet policies that could be a barrier for this type of response, but our staff notified our pet team.

The team responded by completing the leg work, and touching base with the veterinarian.  The evening employees were asked if they were willing to help care for Jesse, and they unanimously agreed to help. The resident’s roommate agreed as well.  As the director, I went into the resident’s room to find Jesse curled up on the end of the bed, and a resident smiling with tears in his eyes.  Our team could have medicated the resident or placed a bed alarm to “keep him safe,” but instead they recognized the importance this animal held in his heart.  His Christmas wish was to wake up to Jesse on Christmas morning, and our evening team offered to care for Jesse to make this happen.

These two stories exemplify the role that culture change and care partner empowerment play in sustaining a responsive organizational culture and creating the extraordinary. To learn more about sustaining your gains, join me and my co-panelists John King and Suellen Beatty on January 20th for the last event entitled “Sustaining Your Gains,” in the 4-part webinar series, Person-Directed Performance Improvement.

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